Q. How do I know if a valid Service Dog is at my door, without violating the ADA?
A. Service Dogs of Florida has created this information page to help businesses decide between Pets
and Service Dogs. Only a Federal Judge has the authority to actually decide on a specific dog. All you
can do is try and weed out Pets.
It should be noted that, there is no clear-cut method, no government licensing or id that you can demand.
If a person claims it’s a service dog you must accept it as so. The catch for them is they have to have a
disability or be a trainer, otherwise it’s a felony for them in the state of Florida. An actual service dog is
best identified by behavior of both handler AND dog. Both will be well behaved in public whereas "pets"
may not be. Service dogs are trained to be seen, and not heard.
With purse dogs and “Fakers” on the rise. This issue is becoming more common. Most business error on the side of the ADA
and allow any animal that is dressed to enter or anyone that mentions “Service Dog” to enter. With this loophole, many areas are
getting over-run with untrained pets posing as Service Animals, creating access issues for legitimate users.
To combat the “Fakers” and purse dogs every Service Dog organization is using education of the ADA to help both disabled
users and business by exposing the frauds at the door.
The US Department Of Justice through the Americans With Disabilities Act defines both "disabled' and "service animal".
If a person has not been legally qualified as "disabled" and/or the dog has not been specifically and individually task or work
trained to mitigate the life-limiting effects of the handlers qualifying disability, then the dog is not a "service dog", no matter what
it is wearing or how well trained it is.
A simple "note" or "prescription" from a doctor or psychiatrist is not legal qualification of a disability. The task or work must be
something that the disabled person cannot do for themselves (seeing, hearing, balancing/walking, among others); the simple
presence of the animal ("I feel so much better if Fluffy is here with me") is not a legal task or work and does not allow public
access with the animal. Theses are called THERAPY DOGS; the ADA does not extend to them.
Never ask what disability a person has, they can volunteer it, but you are not allowed to ask.
A Service Dog is well behaved, the ADA also has certain standards that service dogs must adhere to, and specifies conditions
where the dog may be ejected from places of business and the public venue. Some reasons a legitimate service dog may be
ejected include, but are not limited to, excessive barking, urinating/defecating, growling/snapping, lunging on lead, being
disruptive to other customers by sniffing/licking/mounting, and many other reasons.
There is no legal requirement for any type of "ID" that has to be presented, a vest that has to be worn, or any other type of
"licensing". There are three questions that can legally be asked of a person who is accompanied by what appears to be a
"service dog"; these are your best defense against pets.
Questions to validate a Service Dog team: www.ServiceDogsFL.org
1. Is that a service dog?
or How cute! Is that your pet? (less confrontational) www.ada.gov/svcanimb.htm
2. Is the dog required because of your disability?
- If they say they are not disabled, and not a trainer, you can refuse entry. Most Guide/Seeing Dogs do not have a
You MUST be disabled to have the dog in public. vest or ID as their owner can see them.
3. What mitigating task(s) is the dog trained for?
- Guide/Seeing, Hearing, Medical
Florida State Law allows trainers the same rights as the ‘disabled’ service dog users.
If the person cannot satisfactorily answer any or all of the questions, the business may deny access for the animal only; the
person may continue about their business without the animal.
Misrepresenting ones self as disabled and/or misrepresenting a dog as a service dog are Federal offenses, punishable by fines,
jail time and/or confiscation of the animal. Many States, including Florida, also have laws that pertain to service animals, so a
"faker" could be facing State as well as Federal charges. Most businesses are terrified of a civil rights lawsuit, but are unaware
of the laws that protect them and their customers from “Fakers” and purse dogs. It makes access so much more difficult for
those who truly need their legitimate service dogs to lead a more independent life.
Once you are satisfied and let a Service Dog team is inside your business, you may not ask any further questions regarding the
service dog. All employees should be made aware of this, as it could be considered harassment, punishable by the ADA.